Indigenous lacrosse group working to launch women’s program

Indigenous lacrosse group working to launch women’s program

A group aiming to promote lacrosse in the Anishinaabe communities is developing a parallel program for women and girls.

Anishinabe Baagaadowewin, a nonprofit group formed in late 2020, is working to grow both competitive sports and community-led programs that promote Anishinabek’s history.

Leading the women’s program is Wiikwemkoong’s Marcia Trudeau-Bomberry, who has a background in sports administration and development and is a former Brock University lacrosse player.

“It’s about sharing that cultural background, that history, some of the most important things around the traditional side of the game and building that cultural pride,” said Trudeau-Bomberry, who also serves as Anishinabek Nation’s chief executive officer.

Isaiah Kicknosway, a former international, founded Anishinabe Baagaadowewin with a mission to preserve this culturally important sport. Baagaadowewin, according to the group’s website, means “they play lacrosse.”

Lacrosse important to many nations

Although some people associate lacrosse with the Haudenosaunee culture, Trudeau-Bomberry said there were three similar games that were being developed at the same time. In addition to the Haudenosaunee version, there was the “Great Lakes style” associated with Anishinabek and a two-stick version associated with Choctaw, Cherokee, and Seminole peoples, she said.

“There’s a very strong story and I think there’s a lot to tell about how that fits into us as the Anishinabek people,” Trudeau-Bomberry said.

Lacrosse played a key role in North American history when Ojibway and Sauk warriors used a game as a front for a successful capture of Fort Michilimackinac by British forces in 1763.

This rich history and building Anishinaabe pride is one of the reasons Anishinabe Baagaadowewin is pushing to revitalize the sport among the First Nations. But sports programs can sometimes neglect women and girls. This is a problem Trudeau-Bomberry is working to solve.

“We try to ensure that our approach to sport development is balanced,” she said.

To that end, Anishinabe Baagaadowewin has launched a survey to get in touch with people who may be able to volunteer to support the program, whether they are players, coaches or general program developers.

Community organizers recognize the importance

Researchers, including Mark Bruner of Nipissing University, have found that sport is an important tool to support First Nations youth in various aspects of their lives.

Trudeau-Bomberry said there are barriers that make it difficult for certain age groups of girls to continue playing sports.

“Look at various statistics on girls’ participation in sports and we see they drop out of organized sports around grades 6, 7, 8,” she said. “We have to start there.”

There are still milestones ahead of the group, including recognition by World Lacrosse as a sovereign nation. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy gained World Lacrosse membership status in 1988.

Past successes have helped propel the group’s efforts.

At last April’s Indigenous Heritage Night lacrosse game between the Toronto Rock and the Halifax Thunderbirds, Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee players competed in a traditional stick game. Trudeau-Bombberry said it was the first traditional game between the nations in more than a century.

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